Knot Your Typical Side Hustle: Natasha Kessler's Macrame ArtJul 01, 2022 10:47AM ● By Sara Locke
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Author of Dismantling the Rabbit Altar, former adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and current Metro Community College Writing Center faculty member Natasha Kessler has found a unique and knotty way to overcome writer’s block. While the wife and mother of two has an extensive education and prolific career in writing, there are days when words fail her.
“I’d been working on a manuscript and teaching and writing poetry, and realized I was burned out on writing,” Natasha recalled. “There were days I’d stare at the blank page just wondering where the words were going to come from. I needed a break, but it’s not in my nature to not be creating. I started noticing macrame pieces and artists popping up on my Instagram feed and was drawn in. I had no experience with it, but decided I’d teach myself.”
With a few online tutorials and a tension rod, Natasha set to work on the meditative practice of macrame. “There was satisfaction in learning the different knots. The repetition of patterns and knotting, creating something beautiful. It felt very accessible and didn’t require a huge up-front investment for materials or tools or a new workspace,” she said. “I only wanted a physical outlet for my creativity, but soon friends started commenting ‘I would buy that!’ or would mention wanting a plant holder, so I’d whip one up.”
Soon, Natasha realized she could monetize her newfound skill, allowing her craft to pay for itself. “I started applying to pop-up events, then I realized I had no presence. My Etsy shop, SugarWolves, had maybe three items on there.” But as interest in her pieces began to grow, so did her drive to see it thrive.
“I created an Instagram page, @SugarWolvesMacrame, and started taking more pictures. I built more inventory and grew my Etsy. Then I applied to Hutchfest in 2017.” She said, laughing, “Oh my gosh, it was a huge event! I was pretty overwhelmed, but the makers in Omaha are so warm and welcoming. There isn’t a competitive spirit, and it’s such an easy community to find your niche and carve out space to pursue what you want to do. Local artists will help you find a space; they leave each other positive reviews and shoutouts online. They’re the first to attend each other’s events and share pieces and pop-ups on social media. It’s such an amazing community, and I’m so fortunate to get to learn from, and work with, such kind and creative people.”
Natasha’s favorite creator to collaborate with is the first maker she ever met—owner of the organic Green Rabbit Farm and recently retired from 25 years with Bellevue Police—Suzanne Kessler, her mother.
“Natasha opened Omaha up to me when she was in grad school,” Suzanne recalled. “She’d invite me to art shows and events. Then we started antiquing and thrifting cool pieces and started an Etsy together. She’s brave and independent, and I’m so lucky she still wants me tagging along. It’s been amazing to get to watch her grow and bloom, to have such a solid foundation and still be wildly creative and free.”
Suzanne and Natasha are more than best friends who happen to be related—they're partners in art. “I have 13 acres in Iowa where I raise dairy goats, chickens, bees...” Suzanne said. Her organic offerings are available at the Bellevue Farmer’s market all season. “I recently started Black Phantom Botanicals and I botanically dye fair-trade silk sari art ribbon.” Her daughter immediately saw the potential in the sustainably dyed strands. Natasha skillfully twists the delicate silk into luxurious rope and sets to work on a new piece of art.
These intricate pieces have woven the two women securely into Omaha’s makers community.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.